Cinque Terre is Italian for “five lands,” and thus describes the region south of Genoa, along the coast, where five villages are linked by a walking trail. The area is so beautifully preserved that the villages, coastline, and surrounding hills were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. The committee rightly stated that the area represents “the harmonious interaction between people and nature to produce a landscape of exceptional scenic quality that illustrates a traditional way of life.”
If you plan to walk the trail through all five villages of the Cinque Terre, be sure you are in good physical condition before you start out. Some of the trails are rated as challenging or difficult, and some include dozens or even hundreds of steps. Do not count on handicapped accessibility, either.
Getting There and Getting Around
It's this traditional way of life that you will see if you visit this area by train or ferry from Genoa. The train stops in each of the five Cinque Terre villages: Monterosso, Vernazza, Cornislia, Manarolo, and Riomaggiore. You can pick up the trail system in the middle or walk it from end to end.
The most popular sections of the trail are fee-based (you can pay a few euro for a twenty-four-hour pass on all trails), and other portions are free — though they tend to be the less-traveled, harder sections. No matter where you start or end, there are lots of inns and bed-and-breakfasts waiting to accommodate you and all the other hikers, plenty of whom jam the trail during the peak summer months of July and August.
For more information, the main Cinque Terre park office is near the Riomaggiore train station, but you can also visit the smaller park offices in any of the other villages to get a trail map. There is a park office website,
Wines of the Cinque Terre
Almost everywhere you look in the five villages, you'll find a wine bar offering Cinque Terre (a dry white) or Sciacchetr à (a dessert wine). They're made from the grapes that you will see growing on the terraced hillsides as you hike. After you spot even one vintner tending to his vines atop six-foot-high retaining walls, you will certainly appreciate the effort that goes into making these wines, and perhaps you will be able to enjoy them all the more with a serving of traditional fish stew.